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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

 
DittoheadJarhead

[...]

The marines are aggrieved: aggrieved that the Iraqis aren't more grateful, aggrieved that the Iraqis are shooting at them, aggrieved that the US army's spearhead 3rd Infantry Division tore through Nassiriya earlier in the invasion without making it safe.

"They didn't clear the place, and then they left, and now the marines sure have to clear it," he said. "Just like the goddam army."

And the Iraqis are aggrieved at the marines. A 50-year-old businessman and farmer, Said Yahir, was driving up to the main body of the reconnaissance unit, stationed under the bridge. He wanted to know why the marines had come to his house and taken his son Nathen, his Kalashnikov rifle, and his 3m dinars (about £500).

"What did I do?" he said. "This is your freedom that you're talking about? This is my life savings."

In 1991, in the wake of Iraq's defeat in the first Gulf war, Mr Yahir was one of those who joined the rebellion against Saddam Hussein. His house was shelled by the dictator's artillery. The US refused to intervene and the rebellion was crushed.

"Saddam would have fallen if they had supported us," Mr Yahir said. "I've been so humiliated."

Under the bridge, Sergeant Michael Sprague was unrepentant. The money, the marines said, was probably destined for terrorist activities - buying a suicide bomber, for instance. "The same people we determined were safe yesterday were found with weapons today," he said.

Marine scouts shot two Iraqi men yesterday when they were seen carrying Kalashnikovs. Each man was found to be carrying three magazines, but they never fired at the marines before they were killed.

"They were pointing their weapons in an aggressive manner, and they were taken out," said Sgt Sprague.

Nathen had been captured the previous day, along with dozens of others, and like them, had been let go, Sgt Sprague said. Then they caught him again with a Kalashnikov in mint condition and 3m dinars.

"So the question I would like to be asked is, if this person already went through EPW [enemy prisoner of war] questioning and was found to be OK, why on earth would he come back? The problem with these people is that you can't believe anything they say."

Could he understand the locals' distrust of the US after what happened in 1991?

"If it weren't for the liberal press, we might have taken Baghdad last time," said the sergeant.

[...]



So closely entwined were some populated localities with the tentacles of the VC base area, in some cases actually integrated into the defenses, and so sympatheic were some of the people to the VC that the only way to establish control short of constant combat operations among the people was to remove the people and destroy the village....

That it was infinitely better in some cases to move people from areas long sympathetic to the Viet Cong was amply demonstrated later by events that occurred when the discipline of an American company broke down at a place called My Lai.

--General Westmoreland in his memoir A Soldier Reports,


"We must necessarily appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings -- we approach them with the might as of a deity. . . by the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power and good practically unbounded."
Heart of Darkness